First I would like to note that Halloween, or more rightly called All Hallows (as in …hallowed be thy name) Eve is essentially a vigil celebration for All Saints Day, which occurs November 1st on the Church’s Liturgical Calendar. November 2nd is called All Souls’ Day. Both are ancient feast days of the Church and serve to recognize those unnamed saints in heaven and those are find themselves now in purgatory, respectively.
The more recent relationship of evil with All Hallows Eve, which I will refer to more appropriately All Saints’ Eve, is a result of anti-Catholicism rooted in the Protestant Reformation. Catholics have always accepted and confronted the reality and inevitability of physical death because of our Hope and Love in Christ. It is that allows Christians to turn what many fear into something that is the final step on our path to just judgement and spending eternity with Our Blessed Lord (we strive to anyway).
All Saints Eve of course, is the vigil for All Saints Day and what the Catholic Encyclopedia states was to was, “instituted to honour all the saints, known and unknown, and, according to Urban IV, to supply any deficiencies in the faithful’s celebration of saints’ feasts during the year” (Catholic Encyclopedia: All Saints’ Day). This is a good and just celebration of those who have attained their rewards in heaven and are now, as the Church Triumphant, praying for the success of the Church Militant (us) and the Church Suffering (souls in purgatory).
Because offering the sacrifice of the Mass on behalf of the dead is always beneficial, the Church, in her wisdom, saw fit to set aside a day to offer a Mass, worldwide, for the repose of all the souls in purgatory. Again, the Catholic Encyclopedia states:
The commemoration of all the faithful departed is celebrated by the Church on 2 November, or, if this be a Sunday or a solemnity, on 3 November. The Office of the Dead must be recited by the clergy and all the Masses are to be of Requiem, except one of the current feast, where this is of obligation.
The theological basis for the feast is the doctrine that the souls which, on departing from the body, are not perfectly cleansed from venial sins, or have not fully atoned for past transgressions, are debarred from the Beatific Vision, and that the faithful on earth can help them by prayers, almsdeeds and especially by the sacrifice of the Mass. (SeePURGATORY.)
It is interesting to note that when the Spanish made it to Mexico, they found a similar, ancient celebration among the Aztecs. This became known as El Dia de los Muertos and essentially served the same purpose for the Aztec people. As is often the case:
The Catholic Church recognizes in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved. Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as “a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life.”(332: Lumen Gentium 16 cf. Nostra Aetate 2; 1997 Catechism of the Catholic Church 843)
The result is a rich, pious celebration of Christianity that is both theologically legitimate and culturally rooted.
Our secular world will do anything to hide, deny and pervert the fact that many of the cultural traditions and celebrations we enjoy today are either rooted in Christian theology or renewed in Christ thus becoming something positive. This is why we now find the ghoulish version of All Saints’ Eve being held up and celebrated. Christians need to take this and every Holy Day (root of holiday) back and not be fearful of confronting the world in doing so.
We can partake in the celebrations by dressing ourselves and our children as saints (if one wishes to celebrate the martyrdom of a saint, dress accordingly – when appropriate) or heroic, righteous figures instead of ghouls and evil characters that laud violence and the satanic. Let us feast and celebrate with
tricks and treats all done in a harmless and charitable nature and environment. And as always, the best and most appropriate way to celebrate any of these days is attend Mass offering our prayers and communion for the faithfully departed.
Catholic lay evangelists Jesse Romero and Terry Barber speak to very issue on their podcast Straight Talk Catholicism: